by Bill Doughty
Rear Adm. (ret.) Donald “Mac” Showers spoke yesterday at Pearl Harbor. An ensign at Station Hypo with Rochefort, Layton, Holmes and Dyer, he worked with “dozens of the Navy’s finest cryptographers and linguists,” part of the intelligence team that intercepted, interpreted and confirmed Imperial Japanese Navy’s secret plan to attack Midway Atoll 70 years ago this week.
|"Mac" Showers was an ensign at Station Hypo in 1942.|
Like most other veterans of his generation, Showers is extremely humble.
“I was sent to Pearl Harbor in February 1941 as a naval investigator. I didn’t know the first thing about investigations,” he said. An open billet needed to be filled with Lt. Cmdr. Joe Rochefort’s Combat Intelligence Unit team at Station Hypo, so Showers was reassigned.
“I was introduced for the first time to radio intelligence. It began a 42-year career in intelligence,” he said. “At Station Hypo we had the ability to read and understand the context of Japanese messages. We provided communications intelligence to guide operations.”
Admiral Nimitz relied on the information and context provided by codebreakers and analysts at Station Hypo and other Navy intelligence units, including Fleet Radio Unit Melbourne in Australia, Showers explained.
Mac Showers said, “It was the birth of Operational Intelligence -- get it to the commander in time to succeed in battle.”
After a distinguished career in the Navy, Showers continued in public service with the Central Intelligence Agency, but Station Hypo was a seminal, pivotal place and time -- not just for him but also for the nation. In his foreward to Elliott Carlson’s “Joe Rochefort’s War” he writes:
“My experiences during that early and critical period of the war are clearly the most memorable of my forty-two years of service to the intelligence arms of the Navy and the Federal government.”
Midway was a “history-changing battle,” writes Showers, who believes Rochefort was the individual most influential in cracking the code and providing the intelligence needed to win the battle.
“That puts him in lofty company, with men like Themistocles at Salamis, Admiral de Grasse in the Chesapeake Bay, and Colonel Joshua Chamberlain at Little Round Top. But Rochefort stands out even among that noble company; for he achieved his triumph without even firing a shot or even coming within sight of the enemy.”
I spoke with Admiral Showers about Carlson’s book, Symond’s “The Battle of Midway,” and Layton’s “And I Was There.” Showers also recommends “Combined Fleet Decoded” by John Prados.
“Joe Rochefort’s War: The Odyssey of the Codebreaker Who Outwitted Yamamoto at Midway” was reviewed on Navy Reads last month on Rochefort’s birthday.